A prominent Sunni Muslim politician banned from running in Iraq's parliamentary vote next month has withdrawn his party from the ballot, a spokesman said on Saturday, calling on others to join the boycott.
Iraq's once-dominant minority Sunnis largely shunned the national vote in 2005, fuelling a bloody insurgency that U.S. and Iraqi officials hope Sunni participation in the coming election will help end.
But a recent ban on candidates with alleged ties to the outlawed Sunni-dominated Baath party of dictator Saddam Hussein has fanned Sunni fears of a plot by Iraq's majority Shi'ites to marginalise them ahead of the March 7 vote.
"The National Dialogue Front has made its final stand. It will boycott the election, but it will stay part of the political process," party spokesman Haider al-Mulla said.
"The call is open for other political parties to take the same stand as our front. The whole issue is not related to (the candidate ban), rather the unsuitable atmosphere of this election," he said in a statement.
The mostly Sunni party's leader, Saleh al-Mutlaq, was one of about 145 candidates from different parties whose appeals against a decision by a Shi'ite-dominated commission to bar them from the vote were rejected this month.
The ban actually affects more Shi'ites than Sunnis, but it includes prominent Sunnis and Shi'ites seeking secular alliances against all Islamist politicians from both sides Shi'ites and Sunnis.
Mutlaq's party was part of a cross-sectarian coalition, Iraqiya, headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite with ambitions to become prime minister again.
The Iraqiya list said it would continue to participate in the electoral process despite the boycott by one of its members.
"The list believes that the best reaction (against the candidate ban) is wide participation in the coming election and for our list to achieve a great win and to make forward-looking change," said Maysoun al-Damalouji, a spokeswoman for Iraqiya.
ReutersLast Mod: 20 Şubat 2010, 18:43